Archive | July, 2008

Just pretty damn crazy

31 Jul

Tokyo is mad. Mostly because I don’t understand a word anyone is saying, or any of the writing on posters and signs, and the majority of the time they haven’t got English underneath, and most people don’t speak any English! But so much fun at the same time… I’m loving being in this city which is so crazy while at the same time appearing really calm and dignified and god damn stylish. I feel like such a dag! And I stick out more than I did in Bangkok, because there seems to be lots less tourists around, and more or less without exception, everyone has dark hair and are shorter than me! I feel very strange on the subway and on the streets. But Tokyo is amazing!

Its been a few days since I last posted, so quick overview of my last day in Bangkok was that I exhausted myself on the Grand Palace and just getting around Bangkok without yelling at someone offering me yet another ‘veeeeery cheeeeep tuk tuk miss!’. Loved catching the ferry up and down the river, and will definitely have to head back there at some point to get more of a hang of the city, and explore a little more! While it was crazy hot and overwhelming, I did enjoy it! Catching up with Mod and meeting some of her friends was lovely as well, the guy (I was introduced, but you know how I am with names, and with Thai names it only got worse!) obviously had a huge crush on Mod, and actually sneakily came up to me while she was browsing another stall to check if Mod had had any boyfriends in Australia. She was so grown up and confident, it was so good to see her again! For the last night I hung out with the Australian girl from my hostel, and we went night market shopping again and grabbed dinner together. The next morning was good too, we both checked in and then had breakfast together, before heading for our respective planes.

I arrived in Tokyo about 4.30pm ish, and checked my now two extra bags into left luggage (at only $3 a day for each, it was worth not having to lug them into Tokyo). Got a bit lost when trying to find my way to the train into the city, and hopped on one that I wasn’t quite sure was the right one, but luckily a lovely Japanese guy was helping out another guy on the train in English, so I asked him also and he pointed out where I needed to get off to get on the Metro. I ended up chatting to the other guy, Alex, who was from Switzerland, but had just been in Australia for 5 months on an exchange to Macquarie University! It was good to have someone to chat to, cause it too a good 40mins to get to my stop. Then another 30 on the Metro to the hostel station… I was so glad to finally arrive!

The hostel is slightly strange, but clean and efficient, with English speaking people on the reception. The beds are capsules, with a row along the bottom, and another along the top (I’m in the one on the top row). It’s a little claustrophobic, but at the same time, relatively private when there are 24 people in one room! There are 9 floors, with a common room up the top, which I actually haven’t visited yet. Last night was a bit of an experience, since I headed out without any prior preperation, and found myself in a little traditional restaurant where the man and wife spoke no English, and there were no pictures of the food, and I had a complete blank when it came to Japanese food! I came back here and immediately wrote down a few key phrases, and then looked up food in Japanese, so I might at least know the word for rice!

I have to run now, I’m trying to get my washing done (after 10 days, I really have no clean clothes at all!), and James also finally managed to get me the email of his best friend Charlie’s brother (a tenuous link, I know) who lives in Tokyo, and he’s been lovely and invited me out to dinner tonight. I’ll write more about my day in Tokyo tomorrow!

-Tash

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Bangkok… where traffic lights count down!

28 Jul

Bangkok is hot and even more humid than the islands, and I’ve drawn a dorm and a bed next to the loudest snorer in the world! Truly amazing are his tones as he sleeps, with long, slowly building louder in breaths, and a massive, almost high pitched out breath. Constantly through the night. Wonderful!

So yes, with the end of the islands, I also say goodbye to my privacy for the next five months. Cash flow has dictated that since my next few stops until I get to Humboldt are major cities, I will be staying in the cheapest accommodation, which is dorm rooms with 8-10 people (24 I think in Tokyo) in hostels. While it is the best possible way to meet people, it does mean sharing things like the snoring, and possibly differing hygiene standards (there is at least one guy in my room that has questionable aim… a problem with sharing mixed sex dorms).

After a night of no sleep in Koh Samui (having 5 of the biggest clubs in Chaweng over the fence turns out to be not so much fun if you are trying to sleep), I packed up my bag, left it at reception, and headed out for my last day. I ended up at the beach, where the sun was just breaking through the layer of cloud, and lay there for a little. Had an hour’s Thai massage further along the beach, which hurt but also felt god damn amazing. Chatted to Emilie on Skype for a while (if anyone wants to talk to me, get Skype and find me… Skype name tashhanckelspice) then decided that while I was in the indulgent mood I may as well take it further, and got an hour an a half foot massage and scrub… my feet have never been so clean and soft… lovely. That took me to dinner, then it was finally time to head off to the airport. A late arrival into Bangkok at 11pm, and ages waiting for the luggage to come through, I only got to my hostel in Bangkok about 12am, and felt horrible barging into the room cause everyone was asleep! Well, everyone except the snorer, who came in about an hour after me, and preceded to ensure that for the second night in a row, I had about 4 hours sleep. Really, someone has got it out for me!

Bangkok today has been fun, annoying, crowded (of course) and amazing. The girls at reception, while lovely, didn’t have a map of Bangkok, and were very confusing about how to get to Khaosan Road. Eventually the clearest I understood was that if I got on the number 47 bus, I’d make it to a place near Khaosan Road. So I hopped on this rickety old bus, and stuck out like a sore thumb from all the Thai people. Just kept looking out the window to try and see anything that I might recognise as a place I should get off, and got a face full of fumes most of the time! The roads are crazy here, with everyone swerving and dodging and merging, with the scooters and the Tuk Tuks the worst of the lot. The coolest thing though is that the traffic lights actually count down how many seconds left of red or green light! Eventually I thought it might be the right stop, and hopped off the bus, only to become hopelessly lost. I had no idea where I was! Finally found a map, and my way to Khaosan Road, and sat down to some well deserved breakfast. The rest of the day was spent wandering the street, and then wandering the huge MBK shopping center. About 4 I gave up, and got the sky train back to near my hostel. Tomorrow, now I have a slight sense of direction about Bangkok, and more of an idea about how to get around, I might try to get a ferry up the river to the Old Palace, look at the temple next to it, see if I can find Wat Pho (the reclining Buddha), and then head for another market or shopping center.

The snorer just walked in to the room… some older Japanese guy. Hilarious! Earlier when I first arrived back there was a lovely girl from Australia in the room, and we got to chatting and found out that we’re leaving on the same day, and at the same time! She’s heading back to Australia and I’m heading to Tokyo, but it’s perfect cause we can both share a taxi early in the morning! I have also managed (thanks to Mum actually) to get in contact with Mod, a Thai girl who we had stay with us for a few months about 6 years ago. She is currently living in Bangkok and studying at university, but she called just a second ago and she’s coming into town tonight so we can have dinner at the night market around the corner from where I’m staying. It’ll be lovely to see her again, though I’m not sure we’ll recognise each other! So already my social life is looking up.

Already spending a lot more money than I did on the islands, but that was to be expected. I’m resisting buying more stuff so much… though I might cave and get a large second cloth bag that I can check in when I fly, so I don’t have to cram so much or be so worried… because really, I should be taking at least some advantage of cheap clothes!

Hope everyone is well back in Australia, and just to let you know, still missing you all like crazy. Been just over a week now, but it feels like months! Till next time,

-Tash

The end of the beaches

26 Jul

Well, I’m into my last night on Koh Samui, and tomorrow evening I fly out of the islands and back to Bangkok. I’ve enjoyed Chaweng, even though it has managed to put on a display of the worst weather for me. I’ve seen the sun about 3 times for the whole 3 days I’ve been here… and it absolutely poured today! So my poor tan, which didn’t really get much of a start even, is now being abandoned, and what colour I have picked up will fade as soon as I head to uni! No more lying around on beaches any more, and there’s been not much of that here anyway!

I pulled myself out of bed last night around 11, determined to at least have one drink on the beach before I left, and check out the night life. I picked a happening little spot by the sea, and sat my lonely self down. I do have to say, traveling by myself has been a lot harder than I thought… all the Thai guys on the street pick on me when I walk past, asking where my friends are… grrrr! I’ve had to avoid this one shop around the corner from where I’m staying, cause I walked past and said no thanks so many times one day, that the guy standing outside trying to get people in got pissed, and started mocking me and calling me lonely girl when I walked by! And sitting there last night, I stood out like a sore thumb. Also, you have no defense when guys come up to you, cause you’re by yourself! Last night, it took about 5 minutes for this older looking Thai guy with a funny right eye to sit himself uninvited next to me, and start talking to me. At first I was a bit standoffish, cause really I would have prefered to make friends with other travelers, and with him there, no one would come up… but in the end I went, pah, who cares, and started chatting. He was actually lovely, he spoke a little English, though it was hard to understand or hear anything over the music. He told me about the Aussie bar in the club side street, and then just came with me when I went there about 12ish. We played some pool there, and he showed me one of the big clubs (the source of the loud 2am music I mentioned in my previous blog… the clubs are all down this side street one away from my side street that I’m staying in… no wonder I could hear it!). It was a good night, if a little random!

As I said before, my plans of a final sunbathe and swim on the beach today went down the pot when I saw it was pouring! I ventured out for a bit for breakfast/lunch, and bought with trepadition the second season of Brothers & Sisters (the previous DVD I bought on my first day turned out to be a handheld camera’s version of the film, and pretty much unwatchable). These DVD’s turned out to be good though, so I holed up for a rainy afternoon in my room. Just had dinner at this very cute little place further along the road, owned by two English guys who have made the walls into a library of books donated by travelers, and emersed myself in the Lonely Planet guide to Bangkok. My flight out of here is at 10pm tomorrow, so I’ll have to pack up my room and hopefully leave my bag with reception. If not, I’ll be lugging that huge thing around with me for the day, along with all my valuables (basically my computer and passport!). I plan to take advantage of cheap massages to pass the time, and if it’s sunny maybe a last trip to the beach! Koh Samui has been fun, if a little smelly on the road and a little random, but next stop will be the craziness of Bangkok! Cross your fingers and hope that I can survive it! This trip is flying by, and a week from tomorrow will find me in New York… wow. Where finally I’ll have a friend to chat to! So till the next internet place…

-Tash

Some photos and Koh Samui

25 Jul

Beautiful beach
Originally uploaded by tashhs

This was Haad Sadet, the beach we stoped at to get to the waterfall. The water was so clear and so warm… it was amazing! I’ve now managed to upload the rest of my photos to Flickr, with the help of my usb and free internet computers in the place I’m staying in Koh Samui, so click on the photo or the link on the side of the page to have a look.

I’m staying at Chaweng beach, which is the most developed part of Koh Samui, and completely different from Haad Rin and Koh Phangan. Its crowded, busy, with stalls and shops lining the main street, which is set quite back from the beach. Resorts are packed in between the road and the beach, which you have to walk through to even get to the beach. The beach isn’t half as beautiful as Haad Rin, but its still nice. Yesterday I caught a ferry from Haad Rin to Koh Samui. It was pouring with rain when I woke up, but thankfully just grey skys when I finally got my SO heavy pack on my back and headed for the ferry. It was blowing a gale as well, which I discovered when the ferry pulled out of the shelter of the island, and started to cross. It was fun though as well, pitching around on the waves.

I found the place that had been recomended to me by the english travel guy in Koh Phangan, and its actually quite a find. Not expensive, its down a little ally way, but then opens up and theres a small pool and quite newish looking buildings. I can’t find it mentioned in any guide book or list of Chaweng accom, but there’s still quite a few people staying here.

I was woken last night at 2am by pounding music that was coming from what sounded like the street or beach, and SO loud! I might have to try and find the party tonight! There’s so many shops and stalls here, from designer shops to the cheap illegal dvd stalls. There are still restaurants, but not half as many as in Haad Rin, which was packed with them. There’s much more the resort feel here, that people eat and drink in their resorts, and only come out to shop. There are also outlets for big chains here, like McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and many more. But where I’m staying has quite a youthfull feeling, so hopefully I’ll meet some people soon! And if not, it doesn’t matter, I’m getting into the traveling mood, quite happy with my book and a wander around. Loving the Chang beer as well with dinner! So cheap!

There is so much I wanted to tell everyone, but with this keyboard its taking me so long to type, that I’ll leave it there. When I take more photos I’ll put them up. Oh, and money wise I’m very happy right now, with both my tax return and my bond coming in yesterday! Wheee!

-Tash

A tripping around the island I went

23 Jul

Well, my day was extremely fun fun fun. Well, maybe not deserving that many fun’s, but pretty damn good anyways.

The power was out in all of Hat Rin when I woke up today, which again I only discovered when I walked out the door since my wonderful place has a generator. This meant that the town was a lot quieter than usual, with none of the music and sound of the TV’s coming from all around. I bought my ticket for the boat to Koh Tao the next day, then went and bought a ticket for the ‘Munchies’ tour… it seemed to be the most prolific, and the one most likely to have people coming on it! Then, in a huge stoke of luck, while exchanging some books, I heard an English tour guide talking about how there was no accommodation on Koh Tao at the moment, and that some of the people he had sent over there were sleeping in the school buildings. I chatted to him more, and he said that it’s the hight of the scuba season, and that unless I was diving, there was almost no chance of me finding a place to stay! So now I’ve managed to change my boat to go to Koh Samui, where I’m sure I’ll find somewhere to stay. Little bit sad about missing out on Koh Tao though, Samui sounds a lot more… touristy and big.

I then rushed back to my place to grab my stuff for the tour, and also cause the Thai food doesn’t really seem to be agreeing with my stomach at the moment. It’s a little… frustrating and inconvenient. The tour got off to an iffy start… I was collected from the shop I’d bought the ticket in by someone who turned out to be our guide… but then left standing on the beach by myself for about 10 minutes when he just told me to wait… I was having a few second thoughts! Luckily he did come back, with a few more people in tow, and I was relieved of the fear that I would be alone on the trip! The boat was this rickety thing (see the photos), and the driver looked drunk (I don’t actually think he was in the end), but I hoped on and hoped. Turns out the guide and the driver weren’t drunk, just high, which became apparent when we spotted a bamboo bong! Hilarious.

And the rest of the trip was just as fun. First stop was Hadd Sadet, where there was an absolutely tiny but beautiful beach, and a bit of a walk to find a waterful. Chatted to the two guys on the boat who weren’t in a couple, and turns out were both traveling by themselves. One was a pilot in the Singapore air force, and the other was from Germany. Next stop was lunch, at a beach further up in a cafe there. After that we headed to a snorkeling spot at the top of the island, where the fish were amazing… see the photos, but they don’t really show how cool it was in the water with hundreds of these black and white stripey fish swimming around you and right by your mask… wheee! Next and last was meant to be Bottle Beach, which I had been told by my Israeli friends was the best beach on the island. But due to some muttering which I didn’t quite understand, about low water and so on, we didn’t stop there, but headed back down the island, to the beach right around the headland from Haad Rin, called Haad Yuan. That was our last stop and we just hung around the gradually darkening beach, and chilled out in the oh so warm water. Really, that water is unbelievable… I think one of my photos shows how blue it is as well… wow.

Finally we headed back to Haad Rin, and 4 of us from the tour walked across to the Sunset beach to catch the sunset, which was beautiful. Now I’m just struggling with internet which won’t let me into facebook, and is even having trouble putting photos up on Flickr… now that I have photos to put up! Grrrrr. But there are a few up already, and the rest will be up soon. I’m leaving Koh Phangan tomorrow for Koh Samui, and I’ll update when I can with tales of my quest for a room and suchlike. I’m waiting with trepidation to see if my hard efforts to keep sunburn away were successful… but I have a feeling they may not have been!

-Tash

Red and splotchy all over

22 Jul

Well… Koh Phangan is hot and very quiet now that the Full Moon Party is over. Apparently the days leading up to the party are huge, and the days after are always quiet… maybe I should have thought about this when booking my flights! Oh well, its been an interesting few days… but very slow. It’s mainly been strange for me getting used to being alone, and not having a thing to do. While that sounds fun, in reality it gets a bit tedious and boring!

While it was a struggle for me to get out on that first night here, in the end I’m glad I did. I walked down into town and found a restaurant to eat in, where an Israeli guy introduced himself and his friends to me. Turned out this was their 5th visit to a Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, so they were pretty knowledgeable about the place and the party. I ended up having a very good night with them… the FMP was amazing, just seeing the beach which had been deserted that morning, turned into some sort of huge club, completely packed all along… pretty cool. Those buckets are potent though, and I ended up loosing my friends about 3am and stumbling back to my room. It was pouring with rain for a lot of the night as well, which made for a unique experience, but what photos I did take will be up soon.

Since then I haven’t really done much. Unfortunately my friends from the FMP were leaving the next day. I managed to run into them and have a late lunch before they went, but then I was by myself again. It seems to be the thing here for all the restaurants to play movies or TV shows throughout the day and night. So my lunches and dinners have been picked mostly on what the place had showing at the time that I liked! I spent tonight watching Friends, in one of the few places that had power due to a blackout. They are almost like clockwork here, at least a couple of times a night the lights and the power will go off, but tonight it seemed to be bigger than most, with the power staying off all over town, apart from places where they had generators. I only discovered the wide ranging power loss when I walked out of my place, because luckily my hotel is one of the places with a generator!

Its boiling hot as well… and stickily so. I ventured out into the sun yesterday and went for a swim in the sea and lay on the beach for a little. I then discovered the perils of traveling alone… the top of my back where I hadn’t been able to reach with sunscreen was bloody toasted. As well as the little bits I’d actually forgotten. It has been killing me all today!

Tomorrow is my last day in Koh Phangan, and I’ve decided to take a tour around the island. I’m sick of not doing anything! Maybe I’ll meet some people as well… and then leave the next day! It’s coming up to the three nights where I haven’t booked anything, and I’ve decided to head further out to a smaller island called Koh Tao (Turtle Island). It’s meant to be beautiful (according to my Israeli friends), and I just hope I find a cheap place to stay quickly, so I don’t have to carry my bag for long! The thought of that on my sunburn… ouch.

Missing everyone back home quite a bit… thinking of everyone back at uni and me not there is actually really sad! I know most people would wish they were where I am… and to be honest, I wish everyone was here too! Ack, I am enjoying myself, but I do think traveling with a friend would be a million times more fun. Still, what is is what is, and I’ll fall into the traveling mood soon enough.

Much love to everyone,

-Tash

And then there was rain

19 Jul

Well, I’ve arrived safe and sound at the Drop in Club at Hat Rin beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand. And it is BUCKETING down outside.

It was a bit of a trek this morning, and one where my eyes kept falling shut cause I was so exhausted. When I arrived in Koh Samui I bargained my way into sharing a taxi with some other girls to the ferry, for 100 Baht. I kinda just followed people, not sure if I was even on the right boat, but luckily made it to Thong Sala, the main town on the island. Another taxi with more people to Hat Rin, and suddenly there I was, hot and sweaty, at the Drop in Club. As it was 9am in the morning, my room wasn’t at all ready, but they let me grab some shorts out, get changed and leave my bag at reception for a few hours while I went into town.

First I walked to Sunset beach, thinking I was headed for the main part, and I thought it was tiny! Luckily, when I picked up a map I realised my mistake, and wandered through the little streets until I reached the main party beach, Sunrise beach. It was lovely, and actually quite empty. I don’t think I quite realised how early it was, cause there was almost no one around, and I was expecting it to be packed! Had some breakfast/lunch at a place, then wandered back to the Drop in Club, where I connected up to the net and sat there till they finally took pity on me and let me into my room. What a relief! Strange shower that has only one tap that runs at a constant luke warm temp, and doesn’t drain properly, and a toilet that tells me I shouldn’t put toilet paper into it… what the? It’s like the sign I saw in town today which said ‘Home made pizza – imported’.

Sleep was very welcome, and its hard to get out of bed now. Still so tired! But I think I’ll wander out and see if anyone else is around and stuck here cause of the rain. It’s just a little hard to get excited about the big party when I don’t know anyone and its pouring with rain… well, we’ll see how I go.

-Tash

On my way

18 Jul

Well, I’ve finally left Australia, and am currently residing in an internet cafe in Bangkok Airport, waiting for my next flight out to Koh Samui. The flight wasn’t bad, I got an aisle seat right up the back of the plane, and tried (unsucessfully) to sleep. Those seats are so bloody small though! Currently it’s 2.30am Bangkok time, and 5.30am Australian time, and I’ve been awake 22 and a half hours. Its when I think like that I get more tired!

My plan to put my extra bag in left luggage went smoothly, found the place fine, transfered care of my stuff to a slightly dodgy looking guy… lets hope its still all there when I collect it in 10 days! Reassuringly, I don’t really own anything of any worth, so really, unless they want Target and JJ’s clothes, they’ll be dissapointed! At 100 Baht a day, I think its worth not having to lug those extra America clothes around the islands!

Bangkok is humid and hot… and it’s the middle of the night! I also didn’t anticipate being stuck out in the public area… duh! I had to check through customs and everything, and of course I can’t get back into the main area until I can check in for my next flight… hopefully in about an hour. But for the last 4 hours I’ve been stuck in the front bit of the building, admiteddly that is several floors high and very very very long, but in my dazed state I wandered back and forward along the frickin neverending rows of cafe’s and restaurant lugging my heavy backpack with me, not being able to decide where I wanted to go… before plunking myself in Starbucks, cause I just didn’t want to think about it any more. Inspired tash, really.

Currently trying to work out if paying 300 Thai Baht for an hours internet is expensive… the conversion to Aussie dollars isn’t working in my head though. Not really surprising that. I have a feeling though that its a bit of a rip off… I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough! Can’t believe I’m finally overseas, and won’t be back in Australia for 6 months! Now I just need to get to Koh Phangan, and I can chill a little. Can’t wait!

So till I get to the net there (could very well be later today, depending on the amount of drama and check in time), goodbye!

-Tash